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Developing a niche clientele will broaden, not narrow, your client base and can make your practice more profitable and pleasurable
December 30, 2011 — 3:38 AM UTC by Maria Marsala
Can you visualize running a prosperous financial practice that consistently attracts high-quality clients? You may feel marketing is a necessary evil that takes time away from building your business and interacting with clients.
In fact, marketing is actually the key to building a clientele you truly enjoy serving — with clients who are excited to be working with you, too. See: Fast take on growth: Five tips on marketing and sales strategies that work amid fears of a double-dip.
Marketing and its related activities (networking, e-mailing, public relations, etc.) are easier and more profitable than cold calling — an activity you’ll have to do less of as you emerge as an expert in your financial field. So, just how do you “market smarter”? Here are 10 ways to simplify and enjoy your marketing efforts.
Tip #1 – Create a niche and ideal client profile
Don’t even bother printing business cards until you choose a niche of clients. Some examples would be: divorced women, doctors, lawyers or those in other professions. See: Why relying too heavily on a divorce attorney can be a bad financial planning move by clients. Target your marketing to your niche. The narrower your niche is, the easier it will be to attract new clients. You may be concerned that by doing this you will discourage other business, but you will find your expert status will attract people outside your niche, allowing you to pick and choose your ideal clients. See: Schwab encourages RIAs to adopt client segmentation but some don’t approve.
To decide on a niche, take an inventory of your current clients. Do your favorite ones have anything in common? Are you particularly skillful interacting with certain clients? Are you passionate about helping a certain segment of the population? Consider looking at your own interests and aptitudes to settle on a segment you’d be happy serving on a daily basis. If your ideal clients are outside your area of knowledge, immerse yourself in their profession and become known as the go-to person in that niche.
Tip #2 – Perfect — and use — your targeted elevator speech
Practice and use the same elevator speech that includes your name, company name, your ideal clients and what you do for them. Everyone you meet should clearly know your niche and the services you provide to it. This also helps your referral partners (professionals in a non-competing business with the same ideal clients) easily to identify a good lead for you. See: How RIAs describe exactly what they do in a few choice words.
Tip #3 – Attend events and speak in your community
Check out your Chamber of Commerce, weekly networking groups, private events and events put on by economic development corporations. Reference your local business journal to learn more about events in your neighborhood. Speak to groups and associations that consist of your ideal clients and ask them to sign up for your newsletter or e-zine. This is the beginning of your marketing funnel. Even if they didn’t ask for an appointment at your speaking event, your new subscribers will get to know you and could become future clients. Don’t speak for free; negotiate a fee or some other trade “in kind.” Otherwise, the only folks you’ll attract are freebie seekers—and who wants them?
Note that your newsletter, e-zine or any communications that bear your firm’s name must comply with current rules and regulations governing advertising, including providing proper disclosure See: Advisor newsletters: Compliance-wise, all news may not be fit to print.
Tip #4 – Craft a follow-up process
On paper or electronically, or both, create some sort of process that helps you follow up with prospects you’ve met at an event that you’ve spoken at or attended. Making a phone call, sending a helpful article, or extending a invitation to coffee. These are just some of the ways to your initial conversation and develop a relationship with your new contact. See: The art and science of how one RIA grew assets 125% by springing for several hundred steak dinners a year.
Tip #5 – Create a plan
You do it for your clients, spending many hours planning, monitoring and tweaking their financial and life plans. Are you doing the same for your own business — and life? Before you say you don’t have the time, think about it this way: It’s only two or three days out of 365. You can complete your plan and other documentation during slow days of the year or, if you set your mind to it, even over a weekend. Your plan guides your decision making all year long because it contains the priorities that will bring you the most business growth. Opportunities that don’t support your plan can be safely passed over, saving you much time and hand-wringing. Find a process that works best for you, monitor it and tweak it during the year. Updating your plan the following year will take even less time, so get the process started! Include a clear vision, measurable goals, strategies that stretch you, and an action plan in Microsoft Excel, or a project management or enterprise system. Be a planning role model for your business and share it with your team.
Tip #6 – Set an intention — always
Before you attend any event, set an intention and challenge yourself to reach it. Maybe you want to meet two people and invite them for coffee. Maybe you’re looking to meet a web designer for a client or contact. Remember, never start a networking conversation talking about your company. Instead, learn about your new contact. The more you learn about their company and the more you learn about them personally and professionally, the more you can help them in the long run.
It’s always about the prospective customer, not about you. Don’t give out your business cards like they’re candy. Set yourself apart by not throwing your card in everyone’s face. When people ask for your card, you’ll know you’ve genuinely connected with them.
Tip #7 – Market and monitor — consistently
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Use the same words (like your elevator speech) and test them. If the words aren’t working to attract your ideal client, change them. If a marketing strategy is working, keep it and look for 10 new ways to use it.
Tip #8 – Develop and referral partners
Once you’ve developed your ideal client profile, network to find other professionals who have also chosen this niche. You can then combine marketing efforts, offer informative workshops together and generally refer each other. Nurturing strategic alliances expands your “sales force” and exponentially increases the reach of your marketing message. See: In their own words: How 10 top advisors formed creative alliances to drive big asset growth.
Tip #9 – Write articles
Write short articles directed to your client base. Don’t be daunted by the prospect: I didn’t always love to write but I kept at it and in 2000, a marketing guru called me an “article marketing pioneer!” If you’re not a born writer, hire an editor or even a ghostwriter to write the articles for you — always being sure to carefully scrutinize anything that’s coming out under your name to make sure it adheres to all applicable compliance regulations. See: Submit articles to RIABiz.
Tip #10 – Be 'social’
Social networking on sites like Facebook or LinkedIn, even when used under tight compliance regulations (See: Why compliance experts are apt to dislike Facebook), can give your business an edge over your competitors. The key to effective—and legal—use of social media is to stay current with the regulations and be willing to get involved with your company’s social-media efforts. As each new development unfolds, you’ll be poised to apply and adjust your social-media strategy. It won’t take long for potential clients to notice your efforts—or for the competition to follow your lead See: Top 10 tips for the 'social’ financial professional when creating your LinkedIn profile. That, too, is easier than you think.
A business strategist and former Wall Street trader, Maria Marsala specializes in helping financial professionals increase their productivity and production. For 20 years on the Street, she helped registered reps and advisors sell more bonds and secure loyal clients. Today, Marsala helps them attract higher-quality clients and expand their businesses to serve their lives — not the other way around. Uncover the areas of your business screaming for your immediate attention and those that deserve a big hurrah! Request Maria’s free Empire Builder Kit at ElevatingYourBusiness.com.
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